The RTC Interview Series: One on One with NBADraftBlog’s Ed Isaacson

Posted by Walker Carey on June 25th, 2014

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get some input from an expert. RTC Correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the please of speaking with NBA Draft Analyst Ed Isaacson, the founder of NBADraftBlog.com. You can follow Isaacson on Twitter via @nbadraftblog.

Rush the Court: Joel Embiid’s back (and now foot) injuries are the hot topics leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft. How badly do you see this impacting Embiid’s stock and how would you approach these legitimate concerns if you were a team picking early in the draft?

Ed Isaacson: I do not think Embiid’s drop is going to be as drastic as Jared Sullinger’s (Note: Sullinger was medically flagged due to back issues) was in 2012 when he went from being a top six guy to being the 21st pick. My basic thought is that there is no way Embiid makes it beyond the Lakers at seven – if he happens to still be around then. If you are a general manager who is already on board with taking the risk with Embiid – he had a back problem in high school and had it again at Kansas – is the stress fracture in the foot suddenly going to be the thing that dissuades you from picking him? Once there is more information regarding the surgery and the timetable for his recovery, I think that will alleviate some concerns. I still believe Joel Embiid will be a top four pick.

Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

Joel Embiid and Teammate Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

RTC: Andrew Wiggins entered college with a ridiculous amount of hype. He was a very good player at Kansas, but it would be tough to say that he was a superstar. Do you believe his year in Lawrence negatively impacted his pro prospects and where do you see him ending up Thursday evening?

Isaacson: He is still the number one prospect to me. Even when Embiid was healthy, I had more value in Andrew Wiggins. One year in college is extremely tough to gauge a player and the Kansas system is much more different than at other schools. The main concern with Wiggins is the question if he is too passive on the court. The exact same thing was brought up last year in regards to Ben McLemore. I am not concerned. He is still a 19-year-old kid and I think he is going to be an All-Star. I have had him at number one throughout the process and I really think he is the best fit for Cleveland.

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Morning Five: 06.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. Coming into the season Georgia State was already going to be the favorite in the Sun Belt and they became an even bigger favorite last week when the NCAA granted Kevin Ware a transfer waiver enabling him to play for Georgia State next season. Ware, who transferred from Louisville and is best known for his gruesome compound fracture in their 2013 Elite Eight game against Duke, will have two years of eligibility remaining. Even Ware never regains the explosiveness that made him a key piece of that Louisville title team he could be an important piece in a Georgia State team that already had one of the better backcourts in the country with both R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow returning.
  2. If you remember the uproar created by Taylor Branch’s opus in The Atlantic nearly three years ago (here’s our Cliff Notes summary and our interview with Branch), one of his major points of contention was that schools only offer student-athletes one-year renewable scholarships. So in the event that the student-athlete is injured, doesn’t perform up to expectations, or the program decides to move in a different direction, the student-athlete is out of luck. Southern California may have taken one of the first steps to ending that practice by deciding to offer four-year scholarships in its “revenue sports”. Those sports will include football and men’s and women’s basketball. We are not sure what the actual effect of this will be (basically what percentage of student-athletes have their scholarships pulled on a year-to-year basis), but it is great PR for the school.
  3. The NCAA released its attendance figures for the 2013-14 season last week. Outside of the big numbers like over 25 million tickets being sold to watch Division I basketball there were some interesting figures. On the macro side of it, attendance was down slightly from previous years–overall attendance decreased slightly (by 104 per game or 356,532 total) and NCAA Tournament attendance decreased too (more than 61,000)–although both can be attributed to a degree by the venues that the games were played in particularly in the case of the NCAA where the regional games were for the most part not played in gigantic domes. If you want a more detailed, but still big picture overview, check out Jeff Eisenberg’s post highlighting eight other key figures from the report.
  4. With the Ed O’Bannon case playing out in court, it was interesting to see Kentucky sign a 15-year, $210 million multimedia marketing rights deal with JMI Sports. Although the deal does not include TV rights, it does include just about everything else for the school and puts it in-line with Alabama as the richest such contract in NCAA history for a school not giving up TV rights. With schools signing these kinds of deals and looking at other potential revenue streams (such as entertaining the idea of selling alcohol at games) it will be increasingly difficult for schools (particularly bigger ones) to argue against providing athletes with a share of the revenue.
  5. With the NBA Draft just two days away there have been a few big updates over the past week both of which you have probably heard by now. The biggest news was Joel Embiid requiring surgery on his broken foot, which will likely make him miss the first part of the season and drop out of the top 3 in the Draft. The other news was that Isaiah Austin withdrew from the NBA Draft and will end his basketball career after being diagnosed with Marfan’s syndrome through what has been described as pre-Draft testing. We are not sure what triggered the work-up (reports say an EKG abnormality, but testing for Marfan’s based on that seems a bit extreme) or what about Austin’s presentation led them to tell him to stop playing–an aortic root problem is the only thing that we can think of–but at least Austin will not go away empty-handed as he had a $1 million insurance policy.
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Sweet Seven Scoops: Dorsey Leaves Arizona, NBPA Top 100 Kicks Off, Another Package Deal?…

Posted by Sean Moran on June 20th, 2014

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/7sweetscoops.png

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Tyler Dorsey and Arizona Part Ways

This past January, Sean Miller and Arizona made waves by signing the top ranked shooting guard on the West Coast in Tyler Dorsey. At the time, the 6’4” Southern California native was ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 10 prospect in the class of 2015. With the commitment, it appeared as though the Wildcats were continuing their run on the top talent in California. Then in May, the Wildcats signed another 6’5” guard from California, in Justin Simon (No. 14 – 2015). During this time, Dorsey’s stock began to slip in the spring AAU season despite averaging 17.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game playing alongside some of the top talent on the West Coast. As a result, he then dropped down to a four-star recruit and No. 24 in the rankings. Rumors have been circulating about Dorsey’s commitment for the last month as Miller appeared interested in several other shooting guard prospects, including five-star guard Allonzo Trier (No. 15 – 2015), who was just offered a scholarship.

What’s next for both parties? Well, the Wildcats still have Simon on board and are going after a trio of five-stars in Trier, Isaiah Briscoe (No. 16 – 2015), and Antonio Blakeney (No. 20 – 2015). With Miller an assistant coach on the USA U-18 team, both Trier and Briscoe made the 12-man roster while Dorsey didn’t survive the first cut. As for Dorsey, he was heavily pursued prior to his Arizona commitment and will be tracked heavily by Pac-12 schools during the July recruiting period.

2. Loaded NBPA Top 100 Camp Kicks Off

The NBPA Top 100 camp kicked off earlier this week in Charlottesville, Virginia. Some of the top players in the country are brought in (mostly upperclassmen) for a four-day camp that features scrimmages and instruction on the court and a fair amount of life advice from former players and guest speakers off the court. Last year, center Cheick Diallo (No. 5 – 2015) won the MVP award, while players such as Myles Turner (Texas) and Isaiah Whitehead displayed (Seton Hall) their five-star skills. Diallo is back in action, as are some of the big names to know going forward, such as Ben Simmons (No. 2 – 2015), Thon Maker (No. 3 – 2016), and DeAndre Ayton (2017), among many others. With no consensus regarding the top-ranked players in the class of 2015 some of the match-ups that take place over the next few days could go a long way to determining where players stand going forward. One match-up to pay attention to is the point guard battle that will take place on Friday night between Junior Smith of North Carolina (#25 – 2016) and Seventh Woods (#8 – 2016) from South Carolina.

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Morning Five: 06.19.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2014

morning5

  1. Most college sports fans probably aren’t following the day-by-day action in the Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA case taking place in Oakland, California, this month, and why would they? First of all, there’s no nifty “doink doink” Law & Order plot mover to let us know we are moving on to a more important part of the proceedings, and secondly, many people probably don’t believe that the outcome will amount to much change in their annual sports viewing habits anyway. Fair points, both, but if you’re interested in summarily catching up through the better part of two weeks of proceedings and following along in the future, SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel and Andy Staples have you covered with their daily updates. The big fish scheduled on the line this week, of course, is NCAA president Mark Emmert, who will be called to testify today and possibly beyond (if necessary). Emmert has been a staunch public supporter of the NCAA’s amateurism model throughout his four-year tenure, and you have to wonder if he will fall victim to fits of hubris while on the stand defending what is widely becoming disparaged as an indefensible system. His testimony could be a key tipping point in the ultimate outcome of this case, so keep an eye on it.
  2. The underlying force driving the O’Bannon case, of course, is money. It’s always money, and specifically, who is getting their grubby little hands on it. To most Americans just getting by, the division of tens of millions of dollars between the NCAA, schools and the television networks doesn’t much move the needle — in their view, it’s just a case of rich people enriching other rich people. But even their fur gets a little raised when a clearly successful business model that can produce a third of a billion dollars (“B”) in a single year doesn’t give a taste of the steady stream of money to those whose backs on which all those dollars were made — the athletes. And yet, the Pac-12, as Dennis Dodd reported this week, produced $334 million in 2012-13 — the most of any conference in college sports history — disseminating around $18.5 million back to each school as a result. Once you start to add ticket sales, bowl games, NCAA Tournament shares and other revenue producers to each school’s athletic pie, you start to see some very large numbers generated at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Good luck with your arguments for amateurism, NCAA.
  3. Kansas basketball got some really interesting news earlier this week when it was announced that Bill Self’s team will represent Team USA in next summer’s 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Typically, the WUG teams have consisted of some of the top rising stars in college basketball, but the all-star model with limited practice time for players to get to know each other has resulted in only one gold and two bronze medals in the last seven events (Team USA won six straight golds from 1989-99, for some perspective). The Jayhawks have another loaded team coming into next year’s college basketball season, but a number of those players such as Cliff Alexander and Wayne Selden, are unlikely to still be in uniform for international competition a year from now. Still, perhaps the knowledge of Self’s system and the resultant familiarity among the remaining players will allow Team USA to improve on its ninth-place finish in 2013. We can only hope.
  4. It wouldn’t be summer without some transfer news, and there were a couple of name-brand players who found new destinations this week. First, LSU guard Anthony Hickey, a solid if not spectacular player whose senior-year scholarship was not “renewed” by head coach Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge, has resurfaced at Oklahoma State and was deemed eligible to play for the Cowboys immediately. This is a major boon for an upcoming year where head coach Travis Ford is in dire need of a reliable point guard after the losses of both Marcus Smart and Stevie Clark from his team. It may not save Ford’s job in Stillwater, but it gives him a fighting chance. In other news, Maryland guard Nick Faust has decided to finish his career across the country at Long Beach State. Unlike Hickey, who took advantage of the NCAA’s “run-off” rule to become eligible for next season, Faust will have to sit out 2014-15 before playing his senior year with The Beach. We wish both the best of luck in their new environments.
  5. You probably heard about the too-soon passing of the late great baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn earlier this week, and while every American sports fan recognizes the ridiculous batting prowess of the man who hit safely 3,141 times with a .338 average over two decades in the majors, they may not realize that Gwynn was a college hoops star before he ever became one of the friendliest and most beloved faces of Major League Baseball. As SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton explains in this piece, Gwynn to this day remains one of the best point guards to have ever played at San Diego State, a two-time all-WAC selection on the hardwood that featured the best single-season assist average in program history (8.2 APG in the 1979-80 season). We never saw him play hoops, but we have to imagine that he brought the same passion and respect for our game as he did to the baseball diamond. RIP, Tony Gwynn.
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Big 12 M5: Mid-June Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on June 16th, 2014

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  1. There may not be a bigger question mark at any position for a given team in the Big 12 than the point guard spot at Kansas. After Naadir Tharpe left the program, paving the way for signee Devonte‘ Graham to enroll in Lawrence, the question moved from “who will play at the point?” to “how will the freshman fare?” First-year point guards have rarely led the way for Bill Self’s teams at Kansas, so Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star is here to give the lowdown on the winding story of how Graham and Kansas matched up with one another. If Graham doesn’t pick things up in the Jayhawks’ system early, Self will again be left to his backup options of Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp.
  2. A pair of Iowa State Cyclones have had some run-ins with the law recently, earning sophomore guard Matt Thomas and Southern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader indefinite suspensions after each was cited for driving while intoxicated at different points in the offseason. As stupid of a decision as it is to drive while drunk, it would be a surprise if head coach Fred Hoiberg held either player out of game action once the season gears up. Still, both players have opportunities to make big impacts for the Cyclones next season, so it would be in everyone’s best interests for them to remain out of trouble off the court.
  3. Roughly one year ago, Stevie Clark was unofficially anointed the point guard in-waiting of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, after encountering a couple of legal incidents himself, Travis Ford dismissed him from the team, leaving an opening for a new floor general. Former LSU point guard Anthony Hickey is set to join the Cowboys and could fill that role as a transfer, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to get a waiver to play immediately. He has some makeup questions of his own, but if he is ruled eligible and realizes the opportunity in front of him, he could play a big part in steadying the Cowboys’ ship after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign.
  4. Last week, Kansas State rolled out its finalized non-conference schedule for the 2014-15 season, and while it isn’t a juggernaut, it looks plenty daunting. The Wildcats have two true road games (at Long Beach State and at Tennessee), and Bruce Weber‘s team will head out to Hawai’i for the Maui Invitational. This year’s field will be competitive as usual, with Arizona, San Diego State, Pittsburgh and Purdue among the competitors, but another interesting potential showdown could involve former Big 12 member Missouri. Last season, the Wildcats had to make up for some embarrassing early losses, but with an improved squad, they’ll obviously look for a much better showing this time around as they get ready for what lies ahead later in the season.
  5. In another scheduling tidbit, Baylor learned the team it will face in its Thanksgiving tournament, as the Bears will square off against Memphis in the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena on November 27 and will face either Illinois or Indiana State the following evening. In the aftermath of the losses of Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip from last year’s team, the Bears will need to make hay early if they are to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in the program’s history.
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Morning Five: 06.13.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 13th, 2014

morning5

  1. One of the major criticisms of conference realignment was that it would effectively kill many of the major rivalries that help drive college basketball. One of the best to supposedly disappear was the Syracuse-Georgetown  rivalry. It turns out that did not last too long as the two schools reached an agreement to resume the rivalry in the 2015-16 season. The two sides agreed to a home-and-home deal with the first game at Georgetown and the two teams playing at Syracuse the following season. We hope this starts a trend where schools revive rivalries that ended with conference realignment.
  2. The Bruce Pearl experiment is already reaping benefits for Auburn even if Pearl is still technically under his show-cause penalty. Pearl already picked up Kareem Canty in the most confusing transfer this season and earlier this week he got a commitment from Niagara transfer Antoine Mason. Mason, the son of former NBA star Anthony Mason, averaged 25.6 points per game as a junior, which was second in the nation to only Doug McDermott. Mason might only have one year of eligibility left, but he is a huge pick-up for the Tigers as he will be able to play immediately thanks to a graduate student waiver.
  3. Michigan State lost some big pieces this offseason with the departures of Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Gary Harris, but they picked up a big transfer in Eron Harris. The West Virginia transfer averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore and will sit out this season, but has two more years of eligibility remaining. Harris reportedly chose Michigan State over Michigan and Purdue. Although the Spartans will take a step back next year with all of their departures we would not expect them to stay down for long with Tom Izzo and with Harris coming in a year they should have a major talent infusion.
  4. You might not have heard of Igor Ibaka before, but you can probably guess from his last name that he is the younger brother of Oklahoma City star Serge (ok, maybe the younger brother part might be kind of hard to figure out. Ibaka, who has played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, has committed to play at Oklahoma State after averaging 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds as a freshman at the junior college. He might seem like a very promising prospect given his pedigree, but we would caution you that he will be 22 in July, which is why he cannot play for a junior college team. According to reports, Ibaka plans on spending the next year finishing up his associates degree then transferring to Oklahoma State in time to play the 2015-16 season.
  5. Jim Larranaga probably will never coach a Miami team as good as the one that the 2012-13 team, but he is putting together a pretty solid group of recruits. His latest addition is Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy who will be transferring to Miami with two years of eligibility remaining. Murphy averaged 6.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game last year as a sophomore. Murphy will be one of the rare breed of transfers these days in that he will sit out the upcoming season and be eligible to play in the 2015-16 season. We are not sure what how Larranaga has done it, but he appears to have some kind of Big 12 transfer pipeline as Murphy will be joining Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez and Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan on the Hurricane roster.
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Morning Five: 06.09.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 9th, 2014

morning5

  1. The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the 2005 North Carolina Tar Heel basketball team just got a little bit more awkward on Friday when ESPN released allegations by Rashad McCants that he had been enrolled in fake classes and been given A’s in these classes without having to do any work. Even more damaging was his claim that Roy Williams was aware of this and had essentially signed off on it. Many were quick to point out that McCants had previously given a very different statement comparing his time at UNC being imprisoned back in 2004. Although this does not absolve UNC of any potential wrongdoing it does raise questions about McCants’ credibility as do his past actions. Williams, UNC, and many former players were quick to deny McCants’ allegations. While we agree that it’s reasonable to question McCants’ motivations and whether or not he is telling the truth we do not agree with the large group of people who are calling out McCants for being a snitch. If nothing else this will add another layer of complexity to the ongoing scandal surrounding North Carolina and its issues academic fraud. We are unsure if the NCAA will ever go after North Carolina unless North Carolina reports itself on these issues; however, many will question the NCAA for not being more aggressive in their pursuit of UNC when they have been so strict against players and schools who are involved in payments to those players.
  2. The day that the NCAA and its member institutions have been dreading is finally here. After years of legal maneuvering including a deal by EA Sports to pay student-athletes a nominal sum for using their likeness in games, the “Ed O’Bannon case” will begin later today. By now you are undoubtedly familiar with case, but if you need a refresher or just want to be more educated on the case we suggest that you check out Lester Munson’s excellent article on the case. Having said all of that we would not expect this case or the penalties from it to be decided for a very long time. If you are looking for something interesting to come of it in the near-term, you will probably be disappointed.
  3. On Friday, Manhattan reinstated Steve Masiello as its head coach. Masiello made national headlines in March when he accepted the job at South Florida, but then had the offer rescinded when the school discovered that he had never actually graduated from college. Manhattan eventually accepted him back, but he was on leave until he completed the work necessary to graduate from Kentucky. Masiello will officially receive his degree from Kentucky in August, but apparently was able to produce enough documentation to make Manhattan believe that he has already done the necessary work. Now all Masiello has to do is convince the team, fans, and school that he wants to be there even though it was clear from his decision in March that he does not want to be there.
  4. Maryland fans won’t recognize their team next year. Outside of moving to a new conference, they probably won’t recognize most of the roster. The loss of five players transferring out of the program certainly hurt, but they will be bringing what is in the eyes of many a top-10 recruiting class that includes four four-star recruits. Then in the 2015-16 season, they will be adding Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr., who announced his intent to transfer to Maryland on Friday. Carter Jr. averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore despite missing ten games during the middle of the season due to a torn meniscus. Assuming the incoming freshmen stick around (not a certainty given the way others have transferred out), Maryland could be a dangerous team in the Big Ten in a few years.
  5. If the Oregon administration thought that the sexual assault case involving three basketball players was going away after they dismissed the three players–Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson, and Brandon Austin–they were mistaken. The alleged victim wrote a scathing letter to The Daily Emerald (the school newspaper) stating that the school “prioritizes winning over safety of our students.” The issue (particularly this issues) goes well beyond this case and beyond athletics too, but hopefully it will add to the ongoing discussion of why events like this in their various forms happen at schools across the country.
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Morning Five: 06.06.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 6th, 2014

morning5

  1. Paging Rex Chapman… Two months ago, in the tweet that rocked Big Blue Nation to the core, the former Kentucky star and media presence (he had just finished doing color commentary for the Wildcats on the Final Four Teamcast) unloaded what he termed a #donedeal on Wildcats’ fans. Head coach John Calipari was supposedly going to take the open Los Angeles Lakers job, “win or lose,” as he put it, in the national championship game against Connecticut. Well, either the Lakers job moved to Lexington or Rex hit the sauce a little too hard in the pregame that night, because Calipari on Thursday signed a seven-year extension worth $52.5 million that will ensure Kentucky stays atop the heap for many years to come. After four Final Four appearances and a National Championship in just five years at the helm, and given the size and passion of the Kentucky fan base, the scary thought is that Calipari is still probably quite a bit underpaid relative to the value of the program. Not that he cares about that — he’s quite happy with where he is, in fact, and that’s a good thing for college basketball.
  2. Calipari doesn’t miss out on many recruiting targets, but nobody can bat 1.000 either, and one of the best players of the past several cycles that the Kentucky coach whiffed on was SMU freshman Emmanuel Mudiay. In this SI.com piece on Mudiay, Luke Winn explains that Larry Brown’s appeal for Mudiay to stay close to his family — including older brother Jean-Micheal Mudiay, a rising senior on the Mustangs — was one of the major factors in his decision to commit to SMU. With Mudiay in the fold to lead a team that returns most of its talent from a 27-10 team that was one of the first left out of the NCAA Tournament, SMU is poised to make a major leap in national status next season. 
  3. We mentioned in the M5 earlier this week that a $40 million settlement between EA Sports and a class action of former and current NCAA athletes had been finalized, and now the lawyers and all the highly-paid administrators who handle such things are figuring out who will get what. It probably would have shocked nobody in America if the NCAA (still in a battle with the Ed O’Bannon class action, remember) had gone into full pettiness mode and decided that the minuscule payouts to its current athletes would constitute an impermissible benefit. Full credit to the NCAA for not going there, however, as the organization announced on Wednesday that payouts (which could range from as low as a couple hundred bucks to a couple grand) in no way represent “pay” and therefore will not be in violation of any NCAA amateurism rules.
  4. And now, about that Ed O’Bannon lawsuit. As you have no doubt heard for months, even years now, the case is set to begin on Monday morning in Northern California. Still, how many people can accurately state what the whole thing is about — is it amateurism? Video games? The very core of the NCAA itself? The truth is that there are elements of all of these things, but as with most complex forms of litigation, there are plenty of nuances and considerations beyond the sound bites. SI.com‘s Andy Staples separates truth from myth in a Thursday piece that gives a nice overview (along with a video explanation) of what is really on the line in this landmark case.
  5. With the NBA Finals starting last night, the NBA Draft is just a few weeks away (you hopefully noticed that we’ve been rolling out Bennet Hayes’ draft profiles). But while the players in this year’s draft are no longer eligible to play college basketball, the top prospects in the 2015 draft class will lead our sport next season. SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton breaks down his list of the top 15 prospects who are likely to be high selections in next year’s version, and a few of the names may surprise you. Have a great D-Day anniversary weekend, everyone.
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Morning Five: 06.04.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 4th, 2014

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  1. If you’re a regular reader, even in the offseason, you may have noticed that we have decided to cut back the national M5s a bit during the long summer months. The objective is to get a couple of them published each week, but we might go for three if we’re feeling a little frisky. The biggest news of the last several days in the college basketball universe was the weekend announcement that the settlement between video game maker EA Sports and over 100,000 former and current student-athletes for the unauthorized use of their likenesses was finalized. The settlement calls for $40 million to be divided among a huge number of class action members, but even if the individual payouts will be relatively small (the named plaintiffs would top out in the low five figures, while most would be in the hundreds), the notion that players deserve some sort of recompense for the use of their images is clear. Note that this settlement does not impact the impending lawsuit between Ed O’Bannon and others against the NCAA, set to begin Monday in US District Court in San Francisco, although some of the evidence from this settlement will certainly come to bear in that case as well.
  2. From a coaching comings and goings standpoint, several high-profile names remained in the news over the last several days as NBA teams seek to fill their open positions. Guys like UConn’s Kevin Ollie and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg appear to the collegiate coaches du jour, but the biggest names are always floating around the periphery of those conversations. Kansas’ Bill Self and Kentucky’s John Calipari said in separate conversations with ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz on Monday that they were both incredibly happy with their current situations and had not been contacted this offseason about any open positions. Cue Mitch Kupchak on line two, coach? In keeping with the theme, Florida’s Billy Donovan last week basically said “never say never,” but as SI.com‘s David Gardner writes, he could probably satisfy his itch to coach the world’s best players by following the Coach K model with the US Men’s Basketball team. There’s certainly something to be said for capstone jobs in all three of their cases, but the competitive drive and instincts that got them there keeps them looking for even better opportunities, hard as they might be to come by.
  3. One current college coach who has had no problem finding a better opportunity just around every turn for the better part of five decades is SMU’s Larry Brown. The 73-year old who has completely rebuilt the Mustangs’ program in Dallas and will be in everyone’s Top 25 next preseason (especially with Xavier transfer Justin Martin en routeis rumored to be in the running for the open Los Angeles Lakers job. A number of other names are also under consideration — including Scott Skiles, Byron Scott, Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollins and Mike Dunleavy — but Brown is perhaps the most intriguing given that he already has an excellent thing working at SMU in contrast with the train wreck awaiting the next coach in LA. With nine NBA franchises already on his resume as a head coach (but none with the Lakers’ pedigree), the job would no doubt be attractive to him, but would the Lakers really want to hire someone that the franchise could only expect to have on board for a couple more years? Let’s hope the itinerant LB sticks around to see through the job in DFW.
  4. One coach that we can’t imagine will be thinking NBA anytime soon, or ever, is Virginia’s Tony Bennett. While a brilliant basketball mind, his system involving shutdown defense and a glacial tempo likely wouldn’t translate very well to the League. Irrespective of that, UVA rewarded its head coach for a #1 seed, 30-win, ACC championship season, with a seven-year extension to his current deal. The new contract locks him into Charlottesville through the 2018-19 season and increases his annual salary to just shy of a couple million dollars per year. Not bad for a guy who was projected to have trouble recruiting ACC-caliber players. Ahem.
  5. This is a neat story from the Chronicle of Higher Education about a young man named Marvin Clark, a Kansas City kid who will be an incoming freshman at Michigan State this fall. The story chronicles the many ups and downs of his year-long recruitment, where he rode a roller coaster of ups and downs as schools from Oregon to Seton Hall and everywhere in-between expressed interest before backing off and picking back up on him again. Raised in a hard-knock situation with no father figure and a mother battling addiction, Clark’s story represents how recruiting can go for many of the kids not rated in the consensus top 25 of the rankings (Clark fell in and out of the top 150), and how perception and relationships can drive as much of the decision-making process as anything else. It’s a good, quality read, and a reminder to most of us readers that, no matter how bad your day might have gone, it probably was better than many of those that Clark faced growing up.
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Morning Five: 05.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 29th, 2014

morning5

  1. Yesterday, we mentioned that the class of 2014 had only recently finished announcing where they were headed. It turns out that we may have jumped the gun a little as Chris McCullough, a top-25 recruit who signed with Syracuse, is still awaiting his SAT and ACT scores (yes, he took both) to see if he will be eligible. McCullough’s journey to Syracuse has been an interesting one as he transferred from Brewster Academy to IMG Academy last season after being kicked out of the former for violating unspecified school rules. With Syracuse losing its top three players to the NBA Draft (C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, and Jerami Grant), whether or not McCullough can play next year could be a critical factor in whether or not they will be towards the top of the ACC.
  2. He is not an incoming recruit, but the announcement that Jerian Grant has been officially readmitted at Notre Dame might be the most significant move since Myles Turner announced that he was heading to Texas at the end of last month. Grant was suspended midway through last season due to academic issues and soon after his suspension the Irish fell apart going 7-13. With Grant (and his 19 points and 6.2 assists per game) returning the Irish won’t be at the top of the ACC, but he should make them a mid-tier team and could make them an upset threat particularly at home.
  3. Much like Grant’s absence late last season for Notre Dame, the injury to Larry Nance Jr derailed Wyoming’s season last year. Given Nance’s contributions to the team–leading them in scoring, rebounds, blocks, and steals–it was not surprise that his absence would have such a profound effect. Fortunately for Larry Shyatt it appears that Nance will be ready for the start of fall practice. Even though Nance tore his ACL on February 18 there was no cartilage damage or any other significant injuries so if his rehab goes well he could make them a threat in the Mountain West if he returns to form.
  4. Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins was hit in the shoulder by an errant bullet while he was back home in New York. According to reports, Cousins found himself in the middle of what appears to be a long-running battle between two street gangs. He was reportedly with a group that was not affiliated with either side when he was struck by a bullet.  Cousins, who averaged 11.0 points and 4.2 rebounds last season, is expected to recover without surgery and return to the team when they begin summer activities in June.
  5. We have seen schools do a lot of things to keep coaches, but what Arizona is attempting to do seems unique. A donor is offering football coach Rich Rodriguez, basketball coach Sean Miller, and athletic director Greg Byrne a stake in an oil and gas company (via a MLP) if they stay at the school for another eight years. Based on the current value of the shares this could be worth $6,188,000 each for Rodriguez and Miller and $3,536,000 for Byrne. The Board of Regents will vote on the contracts on June 6 at which time they would go into effect. The only catch for these three is that they have no protection if the value of the company falls. Of course, their shares could also rise significantly. With the high stakes nature of college athletics it will be interesting to see if more universities and their donors follow this model.
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Morning Five: 05.28.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 28th, 2014

morning5

  1. Just when you thought that we did not have to worry about a college coach jumping to the NBA, Billy Donovan stated that he won’t guarantee that he will be back at Florida next season. On the surface, it is a fairly innocuous statement, but given the number of job openings out there and the fact that Donovan has already stated that several NBA teams have been in contact with him it will probably raise a few eyebrows in Gainesville. Donovan is already making $3.7 million per year at Florida over the next seasons after signing a contract extension in February so we don’t think he will be able to parlay this into a much bigger salary particularly at Florida, but it will be something to keep an eye on. Based on the current openings we would have to assume his most likely options would be Cleveland, Utah, and Minnesota because we cannot see the Lakers (read: Kobe) or the Knicks (read: Phil) handing over the keys to a college coach they don’t know.
  2. It seems like we just finished up with the recruiting class of 2014 finalizing their destinations and we are already starting to have to deal with news surrounding the class of 2015 and possibly 2016. According to Evan Daniels, there is a chance that Thon Maker (the #1 player in the class of 2016) might reclassify to the class of 2015. According to Maker’s legal guardian the decision on reclassifying will depend on how Maker is doing academically and physically (adding on weight). If Maker does reclassify, he will almost certainly be a top-five player in the class as he already has Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisville pursuing him.
  3. To some people, any time a job opens up at a BCS level school the media is quick to tout it as a big opening and one that could be potentially career-altering for the right candidate. Myron Medcalf is not so sure and thinks that some of these jobs are much less desirable than you may think. While we agree with him that not all BCS-level jobs are created equal we do have some issues with the ones that he picked. None of the schools listed would be considered among the nation’s elite programs, but some of them–particularly UNLV and FSU–are actually pretty desirable in our eyes. Overall many of the programs listed do have quite a few issues that limit them, but we don’t think that would prevent us from jumping at an opportunity here particularly if we were a mid-major coach trying to move up a level. If we were a hot college assistant we might have second thoughts about taking one of these as our first job if other options were available although some coaches in such a position have already done so.
  4. Maryland is not the only major program that is experiencing a mass (transfer) exodus. UNLV is experiencing its own crisis as Deville Smith announced that he will be transferring for his senior season. Smith was the team’s starting point guard last season averaging 9.7 points and 2.7 assists per game. He is the third Rebel to transfer this off-season joining Bryce Dejean-Jones (the team’s leading scorer; headed to Iowa State) and Demetris Morant (headed to Florida Gulf Coast). When you combine that with Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith declaring early for the NBA Draft, the Rebels have lost their top five scorers from this past season, which will make the Rebels a completely different team next season even if their drop-off in performance might not be as high as you would expect given their impressive incoming freshman class.
  5. When looking back at college basketball history, we often tend to overlook many significant individuals simply because they were not at big-name programs. Legendary coach Don Meyer is one example of that, but the outpouring for his funeral in South Dakota on Saturday–several thousand people attended–should be a clear indicator of the impact he had not only on the game, but beyond the court too. Meyer compiled a 923-324 record during his 38-year career of which only four were losing seasons. Meyer is best known for his time at Lipscomb where he was 665-179 between 1985 and 1999. A second service for Meyer will be held at Lipscomb on June 1.
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Morning Five: 05.22.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2014

morning5

  1. As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the long summer of college basketball purgatory awaits — June, July and August are fun months for many other reasons, but getting your college hoops fix isn’t one of them. Message boards and social media will remain active, of course, and we’ll do our part here from time to time as well, but at the end of the day, we’re all daydreaming about how next season will play out. The Sporting News waited a little longer than most outlets to release its post-early entry Top 25 for the preseason, but the timing works because it gives us something to chatter about. Perhaps the most surprising selection here is that TSN went against the grain in choosing a team not named Kentucky as its overall #1 team, but there are a few other surprises scattered about the list (particularly at #5). If you need a comparison Top 25, here’s RTC’s version from about a month ago.
  2. One of the teams looking to reload after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins to next month’s NBA Draft will be Kansas. With another elite recruiting class headed to Lawrence, however, headlined by star forwards Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, the Jayhawks populate most pundits’ preseason top 10s. Bill Self’s squad might find itself rising in everyone’s mind by October, as Kansas on Wednesday added another impressive piece to the class in Ukrainian guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – good luck pronouncing that one — a tall but talented shooting guard who has been favorably compared with former Michigan star Nik Stauskas. With a ton of frontcourt talent on board as well as Wayne Selden and now Mykhailiuk joining the program, Self only needs to figure out his point guard situation in order to roll out another big-time National Championship contender.
  3. Speaking of one-and-dones, seemingly everyone who has a stake in the game is sick of them. Whether you’re in favor of going back to the preps-to-pros of the multi-year NFL model, people seem to agree that something needs to change. For the good of the game and all that. The Pac-12 on Wednesday took its own shot across the bow of the NBA’s dominion by releasing a letter addressed to ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC schools suggesting as one of its key reforms the following admonition: “Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.” Of course, the NBA, under the new leadership of Adam Silver, appears to have prioritized a two-and-through model for its next round of player negotiations, but there’s certainly no guarantee that such a change in rookie eligibility will occur. But freshman ineligibility as a measure of pushback? It would only serve to further marginalize college basketball as a major American sport. 
  4. Remember Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s former VP of Enforcement who was run out of the organization on a rail after the disastrous investigation of Miami (FL) athletics and the influence of Nevin Shapiro? After a 14-month hiatus doing consulting work, she’s back in college athletics, now as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Horizon League. Her new responsibilities will include oversight of the league’s 19 championships, student-athlete development, finances, corporate sponsorship and branding, all interesting and important aspects of an organization that has little to do with her previous role involving enforcement. Still, her breadth of experience and without question also her ties to the inner workings of the NCAA right down the street from HL offices are attractive qualities, and everyone deserves a second chance to prove their value and integrity. We wish her and the conference well on their new endeavor.
  5. Some transfer news from the midweek: Creighton picked up Cal transfer Ricky Kreklow; Michigan State’s Russell Byrd plans to play at NAIA school Master’s College; and the nation’s top returning scorer, Niagara’s Antoine Mason, is on the move for his final season of eligibility. All three will be eligible to play next season (Kreklow and Mason are set to use the graduate transfer exception next season, while there is no transfer penalty for Byrd to drop to the NAIA), but it is the free agency of Mason that might be the most interesting of this group. The 6’3″ guard and son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason will no doubt be a hot commodity in coming weeks for schools seeking to add some immediate scoring punch to their backcourts. The caveat with Mason, of course, is that he’s a high-volume, low-efficiency guy who took as many shots as he liked for a 7-26 MAAC team last season. If a high-major coach can get through to him to cut way back on his three-point attempts (28.6% on 168 attempts last season) and focus on driving the lane to draw fouls and get to the line (where he shoots a much nicer 72.8%), then Mason could become a key contributor on a contender next season.
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